Chemotherapy is the most common drug to fight all cancers, including malignant mesothelioma. Chemotherapy drugs seek out and attack all cells that rapidly divide in the body. This action allows the chemotherapy drugs to target cancer cells (all cancer cells exhibit unusual speed with regards to transforming and/or dividing). That being said, chemotherapy has a number of drawbacks. Most notably, chemotherapy mesothelioma drugs target every rapidly-dividing cell in the body (chemotherapy mesothelioma drugs are not exclusive to cancer cells). For a number of mesothelioma patients, this causes side effects, like nausea, hair loss, aching and fatigue and a weakened immune system. Despite these side effects, chemotherapy is regarded as one of the best mesothelioma treatment options. Chemotherapy mesothelioma drugs include the following:
What is Carboplatin?
Introduced in the late 1980s, Carboplatin is recommended by many physicians to treat mesothelioma cancer because its side effects are regarded as far less severe when compared to other mesothelioma drugs, such as Cisplatin. Carboplatin is most commonly administered to treat neck, head, ovarian and small-cell lung cancers.
Carboplatin mesothelioma treatment is primarily administered on an out-patient basis at a cancer treatment center or hospital. Carboplatin is administered intravenously, typically once a month. For mesothelioma patients requiring more frequent chemotherapy, or where carboplatin is used in conjunction with other mesothelioma drugs, carboplatin may be administered as an in-patient treatment. In this setting, carboplatin requires a stay of three or more consecutive days in a medical facility.
Common side effects of carboplatin include: impaired immune function, hair loss, fatigue, loss of appetite, stomach pain, constipation, impaired hearing or vision, fatigue, feelings of weakness and an increased tendency to bleed or bruise.
What is Cisplatin?
Cisplatin is a platinum-based mesothelioma drug that is used to treat several cancers. Cisplatin was first approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration in 1978. As a solitary agent, Cisplatin has a low response rate of less than 14 percent in the bulk of pleural mesothelioma cases. However, when the mesothelioma drug is used in conjunction with other mesothelioma medications, patients have experienced improved results. For instance, a combination of Cisplatin and Alimta (Pemetrexed) is regarded as the most effective chemotherapy regimen for a pleural mesothelioma patient that is not eligible for extraction surgery. Treatment with this type of mesothelioma drug combination has shown to prolong life expectancy.
Throughout treatment, a mesothelioma patient will receive a combination of Alimta and Cisplatin every three weeks. Alimta is applied through an IV and typically takes 15 minutes to complete. A dose of Cisplatin will follow this dosage and will typically take two hours to administer. The dosage level and number of cycles is dependent on the mesothelioma patient’s response to treatment as well as any adverse side effects experienced.
The basic goal of Cisplatin is to promote cell death. With this mesothelioma treatment, it is recommended that the patient take a B12 supplement once a week before care begins. A folic acid supplement will also be suggested to curb cisplatin’s side effects.
What is Cyclophosphamide?
Cyclophosphamide is a mesothelioma chemotherapy drug that is manufactured by Roxane Laboratories. The United States Food and Drug Administration approved Cyclophosphamide for use in several types of cancers, including leukemia and breast cancer. Although the drug has proven efficient in combatting other cancers, Cyclophosphamide as a mesothelioma treatment is still deemed unproven. Doctors have observed mixed results in Cyclophosphamide clinical trials but remain optimistic that the drug can be effectively administered in mesothelioma treatment regimens.
Unlike traditional mesothelioma drugs that are administered intravenously, Cyclophosphamide may be given to a patient in one of three ways: tablet form (taken once or twice daily); injection and through the traditional intravenous medium (applied once every other week).
Cyclophosphamide is a type of mesothelioma drug known as an alkylating agent. This means that Cyclophosphamide is designed to inhibit tumor growth by impeded with the DNA of cancerous bodies. In this matter, Cyclophosphamide relies on the liver to break the drug down so that it is bound with the DNA in mesothelioma cells. Once it does this, Cyclophosphamide prevents cell division and promotes the termination of cancerous bodies.
Cyclophosphamide is met with the normal side effects that are observed in chemotherapy. Weight loss, nausea, hair loss and fatigue are typically seen with Cyclophosphamide treatment. Additional side effects may be observed, such as abdominal pains, shortness of breath and chest pains.
What is Doxorubicin?
Doxorubicin is a commonly-applied chemotherapy drug that is used to treat mesothelioma cancer. Doxorubicin was approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration for use in a variety of cancers, including lung and breast cancer. Doxorubicin’s benefits are undergoing research for use in mesothelioma patients.
Studies show that Doxorubicin, when used alone, can extend a mesothelioma patient’s life expectancy. The results show increased survival rates when the drug is used in conjunction with additional chemotherapy drugs.
Doxorubicin is administered intravenously; the regimen takes approximately 30 minutes. Studies are currently evaluating whether Doxorubicin can be applied to a heated chemotherapy initiative. When Doxorubicin is utilized with heated chemotherapy, a surgeon puts the heated drug inside the patient’s abdominal cavity or chest during surgery so it makes direct contact with the cancerous growth.
In clinical tests, Doxorubicin consistently yields positive results; the bulk of trials obtain a medial life span of nine months. When Doxorubicin is combined with other chemotherapy drugs, some mesothelioma patients have benefitted from an extended median life expectancy of up to several years.
What is Gemcitabine?
Gemcitabine is a mesothelioma drug that is applied to patients with bladder, breast and/or pancreatic cancers. Gemcitabine is typically used in conjunction with other mesothelioma drugs to treat these forms of cancer.
The wide majority of mesothelioma drugs, including Gemcitabine, work by killing cells with complex chemical reactions. Gemcitabine aims to impede the growth of asbestos-based cancers by terminating existing cancer cells and impeding with DNA replication in other cell bodies. Gemcitabine, like other mesothelioma drugs, target cells that divide rapidly. Unfortunately, this type of mesothelioma treatment will also affect healthy cells, including cells involved with the immune system and hair growth.
Gemcitabine is typically administered as an out-patient regimen. The drug is given through an IV; Gemcitabine treatment typically involves a trip to the clinic, hospital or doctor’s office. The procedure will last only a few hours (actual administration of the drug lasts about 30 minutes). In the bulk of cases, Gemcitabine is administered once a week for up to 2 months, though the dosage and length of treatment are dependent on the type and stage of mesothelioma treated.
Common side effects of Gemcitabine include: tendency to bleed and bruise easily, vomiting, nausea, swelling in the feet, hands and ankles, less frequent urination, blood in urine, explosive diarrhea, chest pains, sores in the mouth, confusion, impaired speech and/or vision, change in kidney function, change in liver function, fever, aching body and chills.
Those treated with Gemcitabine will also experience reduced immune system capabilities.
What is Navelbine?
Navelbine is a mesothelioma chemotherapy drug used for mesothelioma treatment. Navelbine is a semi-synthetic mesothelioma drug that is extracted from periwinkle—a type of flowering plant.
Mesothelioma chemotherapy drugs, such as Navelbine, work by entering cells and binding structures needed for cellular division. This function impedes cells from dividing; because the targeted cells cannot function properly, the cells terminate themselves. Thus, mesothelioma drugs like Navelbine can both slow the proliferation of cancer and/or kill existing cancer cells.
Primarily used in tandem with other mesothelioma treatments, such as surgery, or in conjunction with other chemotherapy drugs, Navelbine is often administered once a week for several weeks. The mesothelioma drug is injected intravenously on an out-patient basis; administration takes roughly one hour. The number of treatments and the dosage levels are dependent on the stage and development of the patient’s mesothelioma cancer.
Mesothelioma patients taking Navelbine may notice the following side effects: allergic reactions (symptoms often include swelling of the lips, tongue and face) extreme fatigue, blood in stool, explosive diarrhea, tendency to bleed or bruise easily, constipation, shooting pains in abdomen, difficulty breathing, persistent cough, numbness, chest pain.
What is Onconase?
Onconase is a chemotherapy drug that is currently being tested for use in mesothelioma patients. Similar to most chemotherapy drugs, Onconase infiltrates the cancer by targeting only rapidly dividing cellular structures. After Onconase is administered, it adheres to these cells, impeding their growth and ultimately leading to their demise. Onconase stands out from other mesothelioma drugs because it yields manageable side effects.
Onconase is manufactured by Tamir and is still undergoing testing by the Food and Drug Administration. The United States FDA granted Onconase orphan drug status to expedite the approval process. Also known by its generic name, ranpirnase, Onconase is also a candidate for lung and breast cancer.
Onconase is administered intravenously every week for one half hour. The amount of weeks a patient receives the mesothelioma drug varies depending upon factors such as the patient’s overall health, other chemotherapy drugs applied to the individual and their response to the treatment. When Onconase adheres to the surface of an infected cell, it penetrates the cell’s protective lining/membranes. When inside the cell, the mesothelioma drug scrambles the cells ability to process information, causing an interruption in its procedure. This expedites the death of the cancer; the tumors attached to the cell stop growing and eventually shrink.
Onconase is typically used in tandem with other chemotherapy agents or mesothelioma drugs to bolster the regimen’s efficacy and potency. Onconase will yield small side effects that are regarded as significantly more manageable than those perpetuated by other chemo plans.
What is Paclitaxel?
Paclitaxel is a mesothelioma drug that is currently being tested for use in mesothelioma patients. Research has shown Paclitaxel to be effective and safe against some forms of cancers, and the United States Food and Drug Administration approved the drug for use against non-small cell lung cancer, ovarian cancer and breast cancer.
Despite Paclitaxel’s success in treating some cancers, mesothelioma clinical trials yield less optimistic outcomes, with most mesothelioma patients experiencing little to no benefits. A wide majority of medical professionals believe that Paclitaxel works best when combined with other mesothelioma treatments, such as radiation therapy, chemotherapy and surgery. Because of this combined effort, recent mesothelioma trails focus on a multimodal therapy with regards to Paclitaxel use.
Paclitaxel is administered by doctors or nurses, who inject the drug into a vein; Paclitaxel administration takes roughly 3 hours and is done every three weeks. For mesothelioma treatment, Paclitaxel is used in tandem with other mesothelioma drugs (most notably carboplatin and cisplatin). In this form of multimodal therapy, the mesothelioma patient will receive both mesothelioma drugs intravenously on the same day.
Paclitaxel is an anti-microtubule agent. When inside the body, this mesothelioma drug binds to proteins in microtubules, which are needed for cell division. Paclitaxel , thus, blocks the cancer cell’s natural functions; the cell is impeded from proliferation. When the cell is impeded from dividing, it eventually dies. And because mesothelioma cancer cells rapidly spread and divide, the microtubules are the localized target.
Like all mesothelioma drugs, Paclitaxel will damage healthy cells in addition to cancerous ones. This unbiased attack on all cells results in side effects such as: hair loss, nausea, fatigue and mouth sores. The mesothelioma drug may yield more dangerous side effects, including: numbness in the extremities, excessive fatigue, slowed heartbeat, chest pains and explosive diarrhea.
What is Alimta?
Alimta (or Pemetrex0 is a widely-used mesothelioma drug that was just recently approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration. Typically used in tandem with Cisplatin, Alimta is the first mesothelioma drug that is specifically approved for mesothelioma treatment. This particular mesothelioma drug is regarded—when surgery is not an option–as the most effective form of treatment for pleural mesothelioma cancer.
Alimta is a multi-pronged anti-folate mesothelioma drug that works by impeding the enxymes needed for cell division and DNA replication. During clinical testing, Alimta (when used with Cisplatin) added over three months to the lives of mesothelioma patients (the drug also proved effective in mitigating associated symptoms).
Alimta is administered to mesothelioma patients every 3 weeks on an outpatient basis. This form of mesothelioma treatment will consist of a 10-minute IV infusion followed by two hours of Cisplatin administration. The dosage levels and number of cycles is dependent on the patient’s response and intensity of resulting side effects.
Alimta’s side effects are typically mild to moderate for the majority of mesothelioma patients. A percentage of patients will experience extreme side effects. In general, Alimta’s side effects include: fatigue, vomiting, nausea, loss of appetite, weight loss, explosive diarrhea, pale skin, headache, dizziness, weakness, rapid heartbeat, muscle pain, changes in mood, low red and white blood cell count and depression.